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ASF Calls for Probe into Use of European Salmon

CBC NEWS - NEW BRUNSWICK

Salmon group calls for probe into source of foreign fish in bay

DFO scientists found non-native fish throughout the inner Bay of Fundy

Nathalie Sturgeon CBC News Posted: Sep 07, 2018

The Atlantic Salmon Federation suspects one or more local aquaculture companies of illegally importing European salmon after a recent Fisheries and Oceans Canada report found non-native fish throughout the inner Bay of Fundy.

The report says both European salmon and St. John River salmon have been spawning in the inner Bay of Fundy and  they likely escaped from aquaculture pens.

Neville Crabbe, a spokesperson for the foundation, said both non-native species pose a risk to native inner Bay of Fundy Atlantic salmon, which are an endangered species.

"In this case, what  DFO  has uncovered is certainly proof beyond a reasonable doubt that European fish were being used by the local aquaculture industry beyond the period they were permitted for use in the state of Maine," said Neville Crabbe of the Atlantic Salmon Federation

When wild non-native species reproduce with domesticated species they lose those adaptations that help them survive, he said.

Crabbe said Atlantic salmon are uniquely adapted to the rivers they live in.

"So when those adaptations are bred out essentially by the hybridization from aquaculture escapes you see populations begin to diminish and collapse," he said in an interview with Information Morning Saint John.

St. John River salmon are the dominant strain used by local aquaculture companies, said Crabbe, and the industry has wanted to additionally use European salmon for some time because they have some superior commercial traits, such as a higher resistance to bacterial kidney disease.

Crabbe said companies also want to expand the farmed-fish gene pool to avoid a so-called genetic bottleneck, where the population dies off because it's vulnerable to some kind of environmental factor.

Allowed at one time

European salmon haven't always been illegal in North America. They were permitted for import in Maine in the 1980s, Crabbe said.

Between 1993 and 1999, a legal loophole allowed companies in that state to continue importing European salmon sperm.

But since 2006, there have been no European salmon in Maine waters and regular genetic testing has been done to confirm industry compliance.

Crabbe said some European fish may have made it to New Brunswick before 2006, but that does not explain DFO's recent findings.

Alleges violation of laws

"What DFO has uncovered is certainly proof beyond a reasonable doubt that European fish were being used by the local aquaculture industry beyond the period they were permitted for use in the state of Maine," he said.

Crabbe said that represents a violation of federal and provincial laws and an international agreement not to introduce non native strains of salmon in our waters.

"Inner Bay of Fundy Atlantic salmon are an endangered species, protected by Canada's Species at Risk Act, and if that law can't be brought to bear in a situation this, I wonder what the point of it is," he said.

Crabbe said something like this could cost an aquaculture company its licence to operate. He hopes members of the industry co-operate by being open about their fish's genetic makeup.

He also said he hopes DFO and Environment and Climate Change Canada will investigate to find the source of the European fish, remove it, and take further steps to monitor and report ongoing escapes.

The CBC sought a response from the Fisheries Department, which did not reply.